Whether it be new construction or a remodel, embarking on your kitchen design can be a daunting task. Oftentimes it’s overwhelming to know where to start, or even the right questions to ask. Ultimately, the goal of an excellent kitchen design is to produce a beautiful, functional space.
In this first phase of your kitchen design, you’ll need to ask and answer the question “How do I improve my kitchen’s aesthetic while making it more functional for my use?” Both parts of this question are equally important, and deserve ample thought and consideration.
The first, and most frequently overlooked step in a thorough answer involves assessing your needs. This portion may feel discouraging as it can be difficult to know exactly what you should be thinking about or looking for. The checklist below removes guesswork and provides a concise outline of questions you’ll need to answer. Following it closely will make this process much easier to navigate, and will yield information that will help create a functional kitchen you’ll love.
Though it may not be as exciting as choosing backsplash tile or cabinetry hardware, you can think of this “pre-design” phase as fun research homework that will pay off in the long run. Forgetting to really evaluate your needs and how you will use a space can result in a design that doesn’t work well for you, which defeats the whole purpose of a remodel or build. If you find yourself at this early stage, you should begin by dedicating a notebook or binder to your project. In it, you should complete these step
First, identify who uses your kitchen.
In this step, it’s important to consider not only how your kitchen will function today, but how it will serve those using it in the future. Keep in mind the physical characteristics of the kitchen’s users, as smart design will ensure that the kitchen will be functional for all. Factors like height, weight, hand-preference of users, growing children and how their use of the space will evolve are all important considerations and may affect the layout and overall space.
You should also be sure to note any personal or medical conditions that will affect the use of the kitchen. For example, if a family member depends on a walker, it makes sense to ensure your layout accommodates not only their mobility, but how all of the home’s occupants will comfortably use the kitchen space together. Likewise, accommodating for dietary choices, preferences or restrictions based on cultural, religious, or health reasons, like eating kosher or vegan, may make sense for your space.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) has created a form to help you record this information:
Second, study and develop a clear understanding of how you use your kitchen.
Identifying the activities that take place there will ensure the space you create will make them more enjoyable. This task is best completed over time, so, while you’re in your kitchen, make note of how it’s being used. Is your kitchen used primarily for cooking? List the activities, like crafting and homework, that take place there. Do all occupants cook? Note who is preparing food, taking into mind their ability and the dishes they typically make. It’s also important to consider who will handle the cleanup and how many people will be served.
Kitchens that host frequent parties and dinner guests will be configured much differently than those that seldom entertain, so be sure to factor that in as well. It’s also a great idea to note whether there’s something you’d like to be able to accomplish in your kitchen that your current configuration prevents. Examining both how you truly use, and would like to use your kitchen space is paramount.
Third, determine your storage needs.
From small appliances to serving ware, it’s extremely important to thoroughly evaluate which kitchen items are essential to you in your space. Incorporating adequate storage for your needs will allow for a more organized workspace, which will make the time spent in your kitchen much more enjoyable. To create the most functional design possible, reflect on how and where you prefer to store your items. This will not only help you identify ideal storage solutions, but will aid in your understanding of how you use your kitchen. A deep understanding here will make it easy to determine your need for cabinet accessories that optimize storage for the items you’ve identified.
The NKBA Checklist covers 16 categories of storage to help identify needs, including: small electrical appliances, food storage, preparation items, small utensils, pots and pans, baking ware, glasses and drinking items, dishes, serving pieces, flatware, linens, storage containers, cleaning supplies and tools, bulk storage, management and home office, and misc. Be sure to complete each section of the list and to carefully examine the items in your kitchen to make sure nothing’s been overlooked.
After spending time evaluating and understanding who will use your kitchen, how they’ll use it, and what items they’ll use, you’ll have the information necessary to move on to the second phase of your design. If you’ve spent time really contemplating the answers to forms and checklist above, you will have an excellent and practical foundation for a functional kitchen, not to mention a deep appreciation of what an integral role our kitchens play in our daily lives.